When I attend parties, I know two things are inevitable. First, I will likely be offered (and will consume) more alcohol that I typically recommend. The second is that, upon being introduced as the best personal trainer in the city/country/room, I will be asked the above question.
My answer usually disappoints. There is no tablet, no special exercise, no magic bullet that will do the job. Due to the many complex reactions involved in burning fat, there can be many factors that require attention. However, in theory, achieving weight loss remains simple. Create the right metabolic state (right hormonal/enzyme balance), provide the right micronutrient blend (this means a suitable diet) then provide a weight loss trigger (exercise)... Simple! Only not everyone gets the latter two right, and few individuals address the first.
Yet this is where my work begins. Now, while it's possible (and sometimes very useful) to order every test under the sun to look at the function of each individual gland, most results will come from looking at the way the body is actually working: how is your sleep? What's your digestion like? Are your stress patterns healthy? Are you sufficiently hydrated? Are you suffering from glaring vitamin/mineral deficiencies?
Let's take sleep as an example. Good sleep does not mean eight hours between putting the laptop away and the alarm going off. Good sleep means drifting into a relaxed slumber quickly and staying there all night. Not waking up during the night or waking early, but sleeping deeply and waking up refreshed.
If this is not the case, your body will not release sufficient growth hormone, one of the most potent fat-burning hormones in the body. Equally, stress hormones like cortisol will be raised the following day. Fat storage enzymes actually have receptors for cortisol; they know when to go to work. Cortisol also causes sugar cravings. If you're not sleeping well, you won't lose weight. The same applies if your digestion is not right - try maintaining optimum metabolic rate when your body is not absorbing protein properly - or if you are chronically dehydrated (not only does this place your body under stress, it compromises many important biological reactions). Psychological stress is equally problematic.
Conversely, when these subtle improvements the day-to-day metabolism are catered for, the right blend of protein/fat/carbs administered and an appropriate form of exercise provided, spectacular results will occur in everyone. The results can then be accelerated with the judicious use of gentle fat-burners such as omega 3s and green tea, although these are rarely necessary; in fact, during the now-famous body transformations that I conducted last year, I made a decision not to use any fat-burners to demonstrate what could be done through metabolic balancing, combined with personalised diets and tailored workouts. An average fat loss of 6.6kg in eight weeks speaks for itself.
So while my answer the the above question may have to remain elusive, the weight loss doesn't have to. And, while actual mechanisms of weight loss remain incredibly complex, providing the right environment does not have to be. Now that's something we can all raise a glass to.
Written by Marek Doyle